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Denair schools get good news, bad news in academic report
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Schools in the Denair Unified School District saw both positive and negative academic results based on the annual School Accountability Report Card, released Wednesday.

Denair’s two primary schools, Denair Elementary and Denair Academic Avenues, both performed well academically, however, Denair Middle School, Denair High School and Denair Charter Academy failed to compete with other Turlock area school districts and California state averages in nearly every statistically category.

The SARC serves as a compilation of information on schools and their respective academic performances as well as enrollment, demographic, discipline, facilities and basic financial information. However, the bottom line of the report cards is how the schools are performing academically — which is measured by the Academic Performance Index.

The API is an annual measure of state academic performance and progress of schools in California.  Scores range from 200 to 1,000, with a statewide target of 800.

Denair Elementary is the top performing school in the district. The school reached the 800 plateau by improving to a score of 843, an increase of 54 points over the previous year. The 800 plateau is universally known as the mark schools want to reach to be considered achieving success at a high level.

The traditional elementary school improved its API by a total of 99 points over the last three years. No other school in the Turlock area (Turlock Unified, Hilmar Unified and Delhi Unified posted a higher rate of improvement.

“I’ve been saying that for awhile but no one seems to hear, me” joked Principal Fawn Oliver. “We are very pleased; the staff has been creative with our limited resources. They are always looking at the data and teaching what students need when they need it. Before we looked at each student with a magnifying glass, and now we use a microscope — very targeted intervention,” she said.

Part of the API is score assessments rating the percent of students performing at proficient or advanced capabilities in academic areas. In English-language arts 62 percent of Denair Elementary students performed at proficient or advanced levels. The state average is 54 percent. In math students reached 72 percent, compared to the state average of 50 percent. In science the school logged 78 percent with the state average at 57 percent.
Just as impressive as Denair Elementary is the district’s new charter school, Denair Academic Avenues. After the school’s first full year it posted an 818 API. D2A is the only school in the area in which Hispanic and Latino students’ API was the highest of all subcategories. Hispanic students posted an 826 API, compared to the only other major sub-group- Whites, which posted an 817.
Unfortunately, Denair’s secondary schools failed to reach the same level of academic success.
Between DHS, DMS and Denair Charter, DMS faired the best, but still below state averages. DMS posted a 746 API, an 11-point dip from the 09-10 year. In English, math and social science, testing ranged from six to 14 percent below state averages. On the positive side, the science score of 58 percent was above the state average of 57 percent. One of the reasons for the struggles at DMS is the lack of consistent leadership. In the last four years the school has had three principals.
Denair High School posted a sub-700 API score at 695. DHS was the only comprehensive high school to post below 700. In all four academic categories students fell below state averages. In English, science and social science the scores ranged from 16 percent to 12 percent below. The most troubling of all test scores was in mathematics. DHS posted only seven percent of students who are proficient or advanced — by far the lowest of any school in the Turlock area.
Similar to DMS, DHS has had leadership turnover. Current principal Steve Doerksen is the third in four years. Doerksen addressed the low scores and listed ways in which the school intends to improve.
He explained that last year the school underwent a review for accreditation by the Western Association of School and Colleges and it has developed an action plan to tackle low academic achievement. The school has formed an organized teacher leadership where teachers observe and provide feedback to fellow teachers about instructional practices and techniques to improve student learning.
According to Doerksen, the school has implemented English and math placement and benchmark assessments for every student in the school, even incoming freshman. The goal, Doerksen said, is to identify what help students need in certain areas. He admitted that math is the biggest concern for his school. Last year the school started an algebra essentials class to reinforce concepts to students who perform below proficient and has stepped up a focus on standards.
It’s not all bad news for Denair High, though, as the school jumped 15 points in its API and Hispanic students improved 40 points.
Denair Charter Academy faired lower than DHS with an API of 541, up three points from the previous year.
“Our charter was drafted to meet the needs of at-risk youth,” said Principal Karla Paul. “The goal here is to get these kids a diploma.”
To contact Jonathan McCorkell, e-mail or call 634-9141.